Expel the Barbarians!

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‘A Call to Arms for the Central Plains’《諭中原檄》is from the Vertitable Records of the Ming《明實錄》 and is said to have been composed by Song Lian (宋濂, 1310-1381) at the behest of Zhu Yuanzhang 朱元璋, who would go on to found the Ming dynasty (known to history as Ming Taizu 明太祖; he ruled under the reign title Hongwu 洪武). This translation is by F.W. Mote. The Chinese original has been added.


Toghon Temür 元順帝, last emperor of the Yuan dynasty
Toghon Temür 元順帝, last emperor of the Yuan dynasty

Ever since our rulers in antiquity assumed governance over the realm, China occupying the center has extended its control over the Yi and Di [barbarians] while the Yi and Di have resided on the outside and acknowledged China. Never has it been heard that the Yi and Di resided in China and governed the realm from there. 自古帝王臨御天下,皆中國居內以制夷狄,夷狄居外以奉中國,未聞以夷狄居中國而制天下也。

When however the right to rule shifted away from the Song, the Yuan Dynasty as Northern Di [barbarians] entered and has ruled over China. Within the four seas and beyond there are none who have not submitted to it. How could this be the consequence of human powers? It was in truth bestowed by heaven. 自宋祚傾移,元以北狄入主中國,四海以內,罔不臣服,此豈人力,實乃天授。

At that time their ruler was enlightened and their officials good, quite capable of upholding the norms of the realm. Yet even so, knowledgeable men and scholars of firm purpose still sighed that ‘caps and sandals had traded places’ [higher and lower had traded places]. 彼時君明臣良,足以綱維天下,然達人志士,尚有冠履倒置之嘆。

Thereafter, the Yuan officials failed to observe their rulers’ Ancestral Instructions; they abandoned and destroyed the norms of conduct … and [their rulers] shockingly despoiled the principles of father and son, ruler and servitor, husband and wife, senior and junior. 自是以後,元之臣子,不遵祖訓,廢壞綱常,有如大德廢長立幼,泰定以臣弒君,天歷以弟酖兄,至於弟收兄妻,子烝父妾,上下相習,恬不為怪,其于父子君臣夫婦長幼之倫,瀆亂甚矣。

For the ruler of men must set the standard for his people; the court is the basis of the realm; Rites and Principles form the great defense [of civilization] in governing the world. Committing deeds like that [as described in incidents from Yuan imperial behaviour, omitted here], how could they maintain the standards for later generations? 夫人君者,斯民之宗主;朝廷者,天下之根本;禮義者,御世之大防。其所為如彼,豈可為訓于天下後世哉!

… And so the people’s hearts turned against them. Warfare broke out throughout the realm, causing the despoiled bodies of our Chinese dead to be strewn across the land, and the living to be unable to keep safe their own flesh and blood. And although that was brought about by the misdeeds of men, in fact the time had come when heaven despised them and no longer sustained their right to rule. 及其後嗣沉荒,失君臣之道,又加以宰相專權,憲台報怨,有司毒虐,於是人心離叛,天下兵起,使我中國之民,死者肝腦塗地,生者骨肉不相保,雖因人事所致,實天厭其德而棄之之時也。

The ancient saying: ‘The Hu [barbarian] caitiffs’ fortunes can never last out a hundred years’ is today again proved true, assuredly and beyond any doubt. 古云:「胡虜無百年之運」,驗之今日,信乎不謬!

The rest of the proclamation reads:

當此之時,天運循環,中原氣盛,億兆之中,當降生聖人,驅逐胡虜,恢復中華,立綱陳紀,救濟斯民。今一紀于茲,未聞有治世安民者,徒使爾等戰戰兢兢,處於朝秦暮楚之地,誠可矜閔。方今河、洛、關、陝,雖有數雄,忘中國祖宗之姓,反就胡虜禽獸之名,以為美稱,假元號以濟私,恃有眾以要君,憑陵跋扈,遙制朝權,此河洛之徒也;或眾少力微,阻兵據險,賄誘名爵,志在養力,以俟釁隙,此關陝之人也。二者其始皆以捕妖人為名,乃得兵權。及妖人已滅,兵權已得,志驕氣盈,無復尊主庇民之意,互相吞噬,反為生民之巨害,皆非華夏之主也。

予本淮右布衣,因天下大亂,為眾所推,率師渡江,居金陵形勢之地,得長江天塹之險,今十有三年。西抵巴蜀,東連滄海,南控閩越,湖湘漢沔,兩淮徐邳,皆入版圖,奄及南方,盡為我有。民稍安,食稍足,兵稍精,控弦執矢,目視我中原之民,久無所主,深用疚心。予恭承天命,罔敢自安,方欲遣兵北逐胡虜,拯生民于塗炭,復漢官之威儀。慮民人未知,反為我讎,絜家北走,陷溺猶深,故先諭告:兵至,民人勿避。予號令嚴肅,無秋毫之犯,歸我者永安於中華,背我者自竄于塞外。蓋我中國之民,天必命我中國之人以安之,夷狄何得而治哉!予恐中土久污膻腥,生民擾擾,故率群雄奮力廓清,志在逐胡虜,除暴亂,使民皆得其所,雪中國之恥,爾民其體之!

如蒙古、色目,雖非華夏族類,然同生天地之間,有能知禮義,願為臣民者,與中夏之人撫養無異。故茲告諭,想宜知悉。